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tv   The Nixon Resignation 40 Years Later  CSPAN  September 1, 2014 1:00pm-2:13pm EDT

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scandal. coming up, we take you live to the museum in washington, d.c. for a look back at the only presidential resignation in american history. this is about and hour and 15 minutes. >> you heard the name john erlich. when president nixon announced his aid's resignation. he had been a powerful man here in washington, one of richard nixon's two most trusted deputies. for his work in washington, he later served a year and a half in prison. and then moved to santa fe, new mexico, grew a beard and wrote three novels. when he was interviewed in 1982 about the tapes from the nixon presidency, he said he wished a team of historians would be able to listen to them in their entirety. and only then, not just from fractions, only then come out
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with an assessment. because richard nixon had so many characters inside his singular, unusual and capacious mind. that's an astute observation. and, tonight, we will hear from nixon the statesman, nixon the thug, nixon the historian, nixon the bigot, the sentimental father, the vengeful bombing commander and that's just for a start. i'm shelby kauffe, vice chairman of the museum. we'd like to welcome you to this that will fulfill the wish on the night before the 40th anniversary of the president's resignation. first, we will have the tireless dr. luke nichter from texas a&m. he has spent over a decade digitizing and researching the 3700 hours of white house tapes.
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he is teamed with the renowned historian douglas brinkley, our second panelists, to produce the new book, "nixon tapes." it's from 1971-'73 in the critical vietnam war years and also offers astonishing glimpses of the man in the oval office, often at war with himself. douglas, now a professor at rice university, is well-known here at the museum for his many books including the recent biography of walter cronkite. our third panel is the world famous bernstein. as you saw in the video, they worked on the watergate stories from the first days and helped win the pulitzer prize for the paper. i got to know carl when we were
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young reporters at the washington post. his hair was dark as night, so was mine. it was an interesting pleasure to watch him go from a bright, young writer with a flamboyant writing style to an historic figure in american journalism and political lure. and, later, the author of well-reviewed books on pope john paul, ii and hillary clinton, he is now writing a book on his early years, his teen years, at the washington star for long time washingtonians. he is now the presidential professor at stonybrook university, in long island. carl was always the more colorful of the duo. bob woodward tells this story on carl back in the mid '70s when
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he found out president ford had pardoned former president nixon before any water gate trial. he called and said the son of a bitch just pardoned the son of a bitch. that reflected much of public opinion at the time. but the wheels of time are turned by the gods of irony. the kennedy family, nixon's old nemesis, gave president ford a courage award for his action. history is often argument without cease fire and it will be most interesting to hear carl's thoughts 40 years later since he wrote the first rough draft of history as the publisher of the "washington post" once called journalism. we could have no better ringmaster. he and his brother were television stars.
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together, they wrote a big book about then-secretary of state henry kissinger who naturally showed up at their washington book party. the good doctor walked in and said to the authors, naturally a reporter, "love the title." it's worth knowing tonight that dr. kissinger did not know he was being recorded in the tapes we will discuss. so his reactions will be intriguing in and of themselves. final note, i want to thank the friends of the first amendment society for helping make tonight possible.
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and our authors have graciously consented to sign some books after the evening. for those who have not toured the museum, let me invite you back to the news history gallery where the famous watergate door, taped up on the night of the burglary and then taken into evidence, now resides in historical splendor. in the museum space next to the watergate door is a video screen that could be a talisman for tonight's panel. on the screen, anderson cooper of cnn is being interviewed by stephen colbert by comedy central. colbert asked cooper, where do you get your opinions from? anderson says, i report facts, i'm not an opinion guy. steven colbert shakes his head and waves finger and says, i don't like facts. you see, facts can change.
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my opinions will never change. this evening, we guarantee you will hear new facts uncensored and some of your opinions may change. mr. cowan, our panel, the floor is yours. [ applause ] >> oh, you're all here. how nice. we'll start with fact one. fact one, this place is jammed. filled. why? because you're all fascinated by richard nixon. not because he necessarily did great things for the country, but you're fascinated by the
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personality. 40 years ago he resigned, one step ahead of almost certain impeachment. this past weekend in the "washington post," there were a number of reviews. there are a lot of books out now about nixon. bob woodward, who knows a lot about nixon, interviewed this book with john dean. i want read you some of the words that woodward writes about nixon. he says that nixon and the watergate ranks as the most consequential self-inflicted wound of 20th century america. the criminality, abuse of power, obsession with real and perceived enemies, rage, self focus, small mindedness,
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contempt for the law -- i go on -- a white house full of lies, chaos, distrust, speculation, self protection, maneuver and counter maneuver with a crookedness that makes netflix's "house of cards" look unsophisticated. you get the picture? >> yeah. >> okay. the thing about nixon, however, that for my money, is something that i can't laugh at. when he first took over as president of the united states, the war in vietnam was still raging. at that time, when he took over, 15,979 americans had already been killed. by the time he left office, an additional 27,623 americans also ñ what did he think of that war?
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when he first won the election and before he actually became president, as president elect, he turned to henry kissenger and richard whelan, one of his speech writers, and he said the following. i've been saying, an honorable end to the war. but what the hell does that really mean? there is no way to win this war. but we cannot say that. of course, in fact, we have to seem to say just the opposite. just to keep some kind of bargaining leverage. that, to me, is minimally contemptible, unethical. but, nevertheless, a president who knew the war could not be won and felt he had to pursue the worth of one's self. so i start with this question and start with doug first. why the obsession about vietnam?
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what was it about the war that so totally engaged this president. >> well, first off, it's wonderful to be here. i grew up watching during this period, and marve and cal and cole bernstein who was an undergraduate when i was at ohio state. the key thing for nixon in vietnam was he had an opportunity to get out. it was seen as kennedy and johnson's war. nixon had been vice president for dwight eisenhower in 1952. ike ran for president saying, i will go to korea. that was essentially ike's secret plan. i'm the supreme allied commander and i'll find a way out of this mess in korea. and sure enough, six months later, ike got us out of korea. nixon, on the tapes, admits i could have done that and maybe
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done the right thing for history. but he decides he's not going to give up on vietnam and he's going to increase the bombing. he wants to show the chinese that he could bomb the bejesus out of him. at one point, he tells kissenger, let the chinese think i'm mad. we've got to worry about taiwan, japan, american interest in the pacific. also, it will show a toughness as a cold warrior against the soviet union. so you negotiate with the soviets from a position of strength, as marvin just said. this was a mistake to continue to war, not just in vietnam but the bombing of cambodia, the laos. you have all sorts of domestic unrest, kennedy saying, how can you ask a man to die for a mistake. the mistake being the continuation of the vietnam war.
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>> luke, the same question to you. why the obsession for nixon? >> i have to admit. i don't want to let my age betray me. but i was, in august 1974, i was minus three years old. around here it is today, i'm sitting next to carl bernstein on the panel. so it's a real treat. i teach 18 and 20-year-olds for richard nixon, who is almost as ancient of the civil war. the 18-year-old barely has living memory of 9/11, after all. i have to always keep this in mind. i think the best way that i answer is to go to the tapes. doug kind of got that started there. but, you know, nixon thought it was important to stay in vietnam because of nixon's image, domestically, for his voters.
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and it was important, whether we agree or not, it was important for our allies. it was important for our allies with the troops in germany, south korea, japan. and i think it was nixon's image at home and it was the image of the u.s. abroad. whether he was right or wrong, that's what the tapes say, the reason he didn't cut and run. >> but the cut and run is a political phase. and it's used by presidents and others in order to uplift or downgrade. if you know in your heart and in your mind that what you're doing cannot be won, that's my point. carl, what was going on in his head? >> well, first of all, the last thing i want to do is get into richard nixon's head. i think where we are in his head is on the tapes. that's as close as we need to come.
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at the time the country was obsessed with vietnam. lyndon johnson had abdicated as the president of the united states. we had had chicago, riots in the streets at the democratic convention. so the whole country was in upheaval of a kind that we had never seen. antiwar movement such that we had never seen in this country. so that's the context. >> yeah, but nixon was a smart politician. >> well, now i'm going to go to this. what you hear on the tapes -- and if you read doug's book, if you read this book that these two gentlemen -- i have not read the whole doorstoper, but i'm giving it a pretty good look. and what you see in the non-watergate tapes, and doug and i were just talking about it, is the same darkness of nixon's mind. it's about nixon, the dog that
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doesn't bark. it's what would be right for the american people. you don't hear that. what you do hear is what you just referred to. nixon's fine intelligence. you don't hear that in the watergate parts. you hear only the darkness. but, here, you see the intelligence, what you just cited about the strategy, the chinese, the russians, you know, a student of history, which he was. a great political analyst, which he was. but then the darkness protrudes and we lose another 27,000. largely because, largely, of nixon's vanity, to some extent. >> but you could have gone either way. let's go back to 1968, '69. you're absolutely right. the country expressed itself in an anti-war movement.
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here, in washington, there was a time when the secretary of defense said that he is going to do something with his troops to protect the country. and not to tell the white house about it. in other words, we were in a particularly difficult moment. nixon could have been a hero. you could have gone the other way. >> he could have said what doug was saying. that this is not my war. this is what the democrats did. let me move on from here. >> absolutely. >> and everybody would have cheered. >> but he couldn't do that. >> look what we also know now from another set of tapes that is the subject of another book. we've always known some of this but now it's crystal clear. as a cab date for the preside y presidency, he sabotaged the negotiations that the johnson administration had undertaken to end the war. you know, against the law.
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there is a big law, title 18, section whatever that a citizen is not to interfere in the conduct of the united states in foreign relations, sabotages the negotiations. so it's all a continuum. and then nixon gets to the white house, establishes and, again, on the tapes, he says there are things that i have done and i can't talk about those. and the same group of people who eventually break into the watergate. so you have a criminal presidency. this is what bob was talking about in that review. we've had presidents who have
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abused power, but this is something else. a criminal president of the united states, a criminal president from the beginning to the end. so the term watergate begins in those first days and goes to what we see up here. and there is one great triumph. and we need to say it. and that is the opening to china. and there again we see nixon's brilliance and how it could have been different. >> but what i see as a war that totally obsessed this politician from the very beginning, as you were saying. how you end the war, how you continue the war, the bombing. all of this in his mind was at a level of obsession. driving out other stuff. what do you think about that? >> i think he was a true cold
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war president. he didn't really learn the right lessons from johnson's failures. and he thought he was the smarter guy in the room. in our tapes, he's constantly saying nixon. guts and courage. he figures, i can do it all. even if i don't win in vietnam, i'll be able to get china and become this great world leader. he's really a diabolical pragmatist. some people want to call him a liberal because he did the epa and clean air and water. and you can build a liberal record. and the conservatives can find things. he's doing what's good for richard nixon. he thinks you have a great knowledge of churchhill and world history. he thought, i'm going to be a historical world leader. one of the reasons he doesn't burn these tapes is because
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he can't bring himself to do it. why would you burn the work of a great man. it was like evil on evil, in some ways. when kissenger works with gerald ford, he does much better. when you read the two of them together, they're constantly backstabbing everybody and themselves, to the point where nixon doesn't believe his own state department. the state department is filled with liberals. the press is out to get me. and god forbid, if a ted kennedy became president, american could decline. >> and nixon goes on anti-semitic rants to kissinger who is jewish and escaped germany, where he was born. not once does kissinger say, mr. president, maybe you're not quite right about the position. >> i covered him, it seems
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forever. he comes through in these tapes on seek yous way. you know, i go back to the war. to me, that's the heart and soul, the beginning and the end of the presidency, although it began with watergate, i appreciate that. he wanted so desperately to beat the north vietnamese. he unleashed a ferocious air campaign. we have one quote right now which i would like to play if you don't mind. if the tech person could play that now. >> it's an 18.5 minute gap. >> it's only a -- [ inaudible ]
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[ inaudible ] >> everybody would approve of it. and then he goes on to say, well, i don't know about that. you get an odd sense that he was all there, of course. but not necessarily on all issues. he was bombing north vietnam as part of a triangular strategy involving the chinese, the russians and because to have vietnam war. >> and richard nixon. >> i'm sorry? >> and richard nixon. this is where this book is so terrific. because it always comes back to nixon and how he will be viewed. >> well, this is the point i was getting at. if you are think about the
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triangle and china is here, russia is here and vietnam is here, how, in fact, was he aware he was playing a game? was diplomacy a great game? a sport >> you hear on the tapes, no, i'm not doing this. a cynical view. but there are a few moments, really the days before he goes to china, february 1972, where he lets his guard down a minute to billy graham, says, no, nixon read history, a great admirer of british praims. he said, we're like the british . they always played the weaker against the stronger and that's what we're doing here. so i'm going to china. what was in his mind at the
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time? the chinese are not exactly stupid people. the russians maintain a rigorous kind of diplomacy. they, too, are not a stupid people. couldn't they see through nixon? >> well one thing that -- for example, nixon will back pakistan because they were a close al allie of china. so by backing pakistan and dissing india. and he says the ugliest things on the tape about the people of india. but he's telling the chinese, we could be your friends, too. i could beat you up or we could be friends. in a way, he learned to respect the chinese partially because of how nice they were of him when he went in '72. they lived up to everything. and he continues to despise the
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soviet union. they slobber all over celebrity. they have nothing in their characters like nixon liked about russia. but he learned to respect the pow are of the chinese. it's quite odd, but you can't find him saying anything negative about mao. >> could you say the chinese took him to the cleaners? what was it that they did? when they greeted him at the very beginning, he said time and time again to all of his people, we've got to be -- he used these words -- we've got to be exquisitely careful when we deal with the chinese. they're an exquisitely crafted people. come on. this was a smart diplomat and he was taken to the cleaners by the chinese. nixon bought into this. we can praise him for being
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brilliant in foreign policy, and he certainly was. he wasn't all that brilliant. at a certain point, the chinese could see through him and the russians could see through him, as well. >> and i mentioned india and pakistan. india is our great ally, the great democracy. and he threw india under the bus, so that showed a lack of diplomatic acue men. >> i come back to this idea. nixon saw himself as a master strategist. understood history. if you read his profiles of foreign leaders, brilliant is the word actually. it is a brilliant profile of nagal that he wrote. but you've got to come back to basic, moral question of who died. you started the discussion there. who died? if you know we are going to lose the war, you state it to everybody in the room. and you said, but nonetheless,
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we are going to use our troops and a couple hundred thousand yellow people, which is also in the tapes -- and we're going to sacrifice them for a grand strategy. that's what goes to the question of what was -- and i'm not going to go in his mind. >> i think we've given nixon too much credit for the opening of china. the opening wouldn't have happened unless the chinese thought it was in their interest. what you've seen over and over in the tapes, which hasn't got a lot of attention, is that nixon was surprised at how quickly the
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ice was thawing with china. kisen ger coming over, saying this begins a whole new era in relation to china. and nixon says what? to a ping-pong team? why would he say that? he thought they were supposed to be running things. they had the accelerator and the break. >> and, of course, nixon had china in mind as a kind of tool, a weapon, that he would use against the russians. and you're absolutely right. in his mind, china was an instrument. russia was the essential enemy. and that was the guy you had to deal with. and for nixon to be the first american president to visit on a summit level, it's a big deal. nixon always wanted to picture himself as one of the great figures of history. and not just american history, all history. >> that's why he had the tapes,
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you know. because nixon's impetus in putting the tape system in is partly that he was going to have the greatest memoirs of any president of the united states. and he would be able to draw, verbatim, from these meetings in which we would see this brilliance. >> we have to bear in mind that not all of this worked as well as nixon had planned. it did ultimately end up in his resignation. and he began to think about resignation way before he actually acted on resignation. because he worried that if this didn't go right -- he would say, for example, that if, as they were approaching the moscow sum it, which was in may of 1972. he had just been in china in february of 1972. and he spoke about that week in
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china as the week that changds the world. he was a heck of a pr guy himself, for himself. but as they were approaching the moscow sum it, they also were bombing ferociously in vietnam. the question was, are we going to have the summit? will the russians pull out of the summit? can we continue to bomb in vietnam and have our summit at the same time. if we can't, he was saying, it may very well be that we're going to lose the election. that, i don't think, was never in the cards. nevertheless, that was in his mind. i'd like us to play another tape now of the way nixon thought about vietnam, thought about the moscow summit. thought about the resignation, if it didn't all work well. so, dear mr. technician, could you run that second tape, please.
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[ inaudible ] [ inaudible ]
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[ inaudible ] [ inaudible ]
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[ inaudible ] [ inaudible ] >> can i ask luke and doug about this? i've looked at this quite a few times and am quite mystified as to this playing with ether that nixon is doing here. there's about as much chance that he is going to abdicate the presidency.
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>> but this is the point about nixon that is so fascinating. i think it's one of the reasons that rooms fill up when people want to talk about nixon. why there is so many books coming out now about nixon. you would think 40 years ago, the guy left. he was a disgrace, humiliation of the country. the heck with him. go. because he was so negative, we're drawn to him. you're always drawn to a negative character. what i'm trying to get at here, this last sequence that we ran has a lot of pure nixon. you're playing this against that. and it's all connected to the next policy and who's going to win the next election. i'll take this democrat from texas and turn him into a republican. and you have the sense of a man
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operating on many different levels with himself manipulating the game of politics and diplomacy. >> i once understand, but i want to go back and ask what these two guys are really saying here. what is this thing about abdicating? what was this about? >> it seems kind of silly. was he really serious about resigning? it's kind of like thinking would president obama resigning over health care. in hindsight, we say he couldn't have been serious. but it did happen just four years before. i think this is partly why we're still fascinated by nixon 40 years later. we have polls for president and
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we rank our presidents, we have the top third, the bottom quarter, above average and below average. we put presidents in boxes sometimes. i think which box do you put richard nixon in. who else is in that box? >> nobody. you have to remember he rides astride the national consciousness in a way that no plit rale figure does. >> but i'm wondering if he deserved all of that striding and emulation and admiration. why? >> that's what i wondered. >> it's not just emulation. if you go back to looking at herb block's cartoons of nixon of the dark shadows. this is a man about whom the country was passionately divided. it was passionately divided when he made the checkered speech during the eisenhower years. it was passionately divided when
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he lost the presidency to kennedy. he came back and won the presidency. it was passionately divided over the war and his conduct of the war, and then over watergate. no one, no figure in our modern history has caused this sort of visceral reaction among the american people and that's part of the fascination. >> i was going to say, i get asked a lot of times, what makes a human being listen to richard nixon for ten years now going. we have it -- >> especially at your age. there are a lot of other things to do when you're young. >> we have a three-month-old baby now and probably has heard nixon's voice and thinks he's a grandfather or something. >> that's how you put her to sleep, you play the tapes?
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>> but i think, though, there are a lot of questions -- i don't have the answers to, even after ten years. >> none of us. >> and i think is richard nixon really this interesting to us 40 years later? or is it just because he's the only one who left us all of these recordings. >> now, he did say that 1972 is the year that a great book ought to be written about 1972. and you guys have laid out the spade work. go ahead. >> nixon in december of '72 just beat mcgovern in the biggest landslide in history. >> and then what? >> watergate was a back water story but they just kept building and building and building. nixon survived, won the landslide and he thought that watergate was a back burner story and, of course, he didn't. he felt he had a peace agreement in vietnam. he did china. but he had been president with p-m created the environmental
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protection agency. so his ego was so high. i called him a diabolical pragmatist. and then add paranoia to that. and you heard on the tapes some paranoia. here's a brilliant political analyst who did the southern realignment for the party politics, but he's paranoid about mcgovern in '72. he was breaking in to larry o'brian in '72. he's paranoid. his sense of paranoia and politics is not good. he' paranoid about the press. >> let's look at the people you just talked about. you know, at first, we thought -- we wrote in october of '72, that the watergate break-in was part of a massive campaign of political espionage and sabotage to undermine the democrats and their candidates
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for president. the candidates were sabotaged. tried to undercut ted kennedy as a figure of any kind of respect through smearing and investigations and one thing and another. and then all of these dirty tricks out on the campaign trail. and then you find out that not only was watergate -- and this is later, it's after the watergate hearings. not only was it a campaign to undermine the very basis of demock kra zi, which are free elections. but, from the beginning, it was to undermine the anti-war movement through illegal means. to undermine reporting. to undermine the democrats and his political entities through
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the use of the irs, which we also hear on the tapes. then the break-in at watergate and then to undermine the very system of justice through the cover up. the cover up is worse than the crime? not a chance. the crime is ongoing. and then, the last war, these five wars of watergate. and we wrote, bob and i wrote on the 40th anniversary of the break-in, a piece for the post. and afterwards, to a new addition of all of the president's men. it's about these five wars of watergate and how we know now, it's so much worse than at the time when we were writing these stories. back to your diabolical notion here. it's astonishing what we know. >> can i just add one quick thing? i think, also, he thought it was blood sport. you slaughtered your enemy. that's what life in the arena was like.
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and he thought the kennedys manipulated himself in 1964. that election he should have won. but they out-foxed him. and j. edgar hoover was doing all sorts of nefarious things. and, yet, was this respected figure in washington. so nixon thought that was kind of part in parcel about the way the big boys playing and i'm going to be a big boy, too. and those guys didn't go and take on the press of the united states and try to destroy them. i write about presidents for a living. the good ones know how to work with the press, roosevelt, f.d.r., ronald reagan. nixon's war in the press with agnew was insane for somebody who wants to stay in there. but he was going to war with them. he was going to be this game changer and it all crumbled because of the tapes. >> can i say one word for richard nixon here that might sound surprising? one of the things you hear on the tapes over and over is goes back to his case.
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they've hated me since the case. the liberals, the jews are out to get me. and nixon indeed was pillarried for his whole career for being a smear agent and a terrible liar and manufacturing evidence because of the hiss case and nixon knew he was right about hiss. hiss was a spy. it's very interesting, you see how he's animated by that. and we didn't know then, of course we now have what's called the vanona transcripts of the soviets in which it's pretty definitive. >> an interesting point, karl, very interesting. >> i would like to go back to 1927 for a minute. nixon was very high on what he had accomplished in 1972 because right toward the end of the year he had, as doug was saying, the stunning political victory.
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but right after the stunning political victory he had to go ahead and launch a murderous bombing campaign against north vietnam. in order to take a negotiation -- this is my point again about the total lack of ethics here. he had to take -- you bomb north vietnam in order to get an agreement, which he did get and was signed on january 23rd of the following year in '73. in 1971, in april, richard nixon told henry kissen ger who was negotiating with the north vietnamese in paris, he said up to this point the key part of the investigation was that we would pull out when we had a cease fire and the north vietnamese pull out. but i have a feeling that's not working terribly well. so we're going to have to try
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something different. and what they did was to lay out before the north vietnamese in paris the following idea. we'll have a cease-fire and we, the americans, will pull out, and he never added the next sentence, that the north vietnamese had to pull out. so the north vietnamese, very smart, pocketed that and they wanted, in a way, they could absorb the bombing. but they wanted to destroy this guy in the way they destroyed lynn don johnson. what's fascinating to me time and time again is an underestimation on the part of the brilliant richard nixon about something as fundamental as vietnamese nationalism which propelled this country to take on the united states of america and to beat it. the united states has lost, in
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its entire glour yous history one war with, and that was the war in vietnam. and what i'm just advancing as a thought here and really leaning on you guys for the expertise, but is it entirely possible that we're giving too much credit to nixon and to kissen ger for what they did in foreign policy? >> who's giving them credit? >> everybody is giving them credit. >> what discussion are we hearing here, marvin? i haven't heard a lot of credit up here. >> i think you're totally wrong, totally wrong. richard nixon is praised a the great genius in foreign policy. >> here i think you might have succumb to too much revisionism. >> too much what? >> too much revisionism. >> i don't know tow to spell the word. >> i think you got that entirely wrong. >> i think there is a lot made about the opening to china.
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but the idea of richard nixon being a foreign policy genius i think has been -- >> carl, i don't know where you've been the past 40 years. that's been the book line, that's been the narrativnarrati. >> how many people here think that richard nixon was a foreign policy genius. >> that's why they're here. >> well, look, henry kissinger did a lot of memoirs, written a lot of books and he's been professional. he's working very hard to argue that i was a genius. he won a nobel peace prize for vietnam and he's been working. and nixon, after he left 40 years ago, moved back to the east to new jersey and spent time in new york and not just the frost interviews but started trying to write books and get back in the game to the point
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that bill clinton said i'm going to talk to nixon about russia. there were people people -- he was starting a rehabilitation when he died. and when he died, all of the presidents came to the presidential library at the grave and stood there. he was able to rehabilitate himself to a degree in the last years of his life. >> yes, he did. i also want to point out, because we've got a wonderful tape which i'd like for you to listen to about the great mind of foreign affairs and policy. and carl, i'll give you a book on this one. this is richard nixon talked to holderman about girls cursing. and i'd like to play that tape now. [ inaudible ]
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[ inaudible ] [ inaudible ] [ inaudible ]
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[ inaudible ] >> never tape yourself. >> maybe we didn't plak clemake but i think you know nixon had it voice activated. johnson did selective taping. nixon started bugging everything. i mean, there are microphones picking up all of this material and you get these kind of really awkward almost crazy moments that you have to scratch your head about. there's something oddly -- i don't want to be ever quoted on saying that at times nixon -- >> you don't want to be quoted? >> saying it as a joke, he can be a real -- i guess the word is square but he could be real
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puritanical, talking about cursing and all this. but suddenly pat and richard nixon can be as old-fashioned square kind of thinking and you're getting that there. i don't think he was putting them on. really, girls do swear? and it showed just a disconnect in a way that he had, but it was old-fashioned. >> we're going to have some questions from you all if you wish to ask questions, and i note there's a microphone here and there's one over here, and if you want to ask a question, please come to the microphone and identify yourself, and if you decide that this is an opportunity for a speech, i'll probably cut you off. but identify yourself and here are the two microphones. if you would like to start, please. >> jfk i will not make a speech. i will try to make it on point. to the kennedy assassination aspect of the watergate tapes, when richard nixon sent h.r.
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haldeman over over to the cia to meet richard helms and try to pressure the cia to get the fbi to shut down the investigation of watergate, he said tell helms, if they don't shut down the investigation, it will blow the whole bay of pigs thing. well,m haldeman wrote whenever nixon said the bay of pig things, he meant the kennedys a sass nation. nixon on the watergate tape says, hunt, if you pull that skrab, there's a lot of things. we know hunt was involved. >> what are you trying to ask? >> i'm trying to ask, we've got some trivia but in the index of the book there's no reference to the bay of pigs, probably the most important thing nixon ever said in those tapes was telling the kcia the whole bay of pig
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things will be blown. is it time we release all the cia records still sealed concerning the kennedy assassination and mr. bernstein you wrote in the last days what george h.w. bush's reaction was when he heard that the transcripts were to be released. i wonder if you could recount that quotation, please. >> i don't remember -- i wrote a piece in "the los angeles times" about -- tell me. remind me. >> apparently it pointed -- >> we can't. >> to him laundering money to mexicos to the burglars -- >> sir, sir. >> that's not what it was about. >> okay. >> thanks. >> you guys want to pick up the point about the bay of pigs? >> do you want to start or -- >> i think all i'll say is nixon was -- i read a couple -- question that a couple different ways. nixon was often interested to ask his people could we release some prior records from presidencies, kennedy and johnson, that he thought wouldxp
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and he wanted bay of pigs records themselves out because he thought they would make kennedy look weak in the bay of pigs. it was not a high moment for kennedy foreign policy. i think nixon does talk, does scheme at times to release records out about democrats and his predecessors he thought would make them look worse and make him look better. >> let me add one thing about the kennedy assassination. i had the privilege of interviewing gerald ford at rancho mirage. might as well invoke his name because he became president 40 years ago. president ford, he called me over, i did my interview, and he said come here. he said do you see this stack? he had a hugistic of papers? i said yes. he said do you see this stack? it was this small. he said this is -- the little one is about my presidency, the letters i have done, this is the kennedy assassination warren commission, that many people were writing him. the question comes up, people are obsessed with the kennedy
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assassination. people will read anything. what i have seen in the tapes, the bay of pigs, it means the bay of pigs, like luke said, embarrassing kennedy on what -- >> in this context actually i think we know fairly definitively that it was the whole idea -- and there are other discussions on the tapes about it, is that's part -- that was the essential illegal act in the cover-up. the purpose of it was to say that, oh, we did this break-in, this break-in occurred because or it's related to real national security concerns that have to do with the bay of pigs and go all the way back, and that's how nixon tried to initiate the cover-up and keep the fbi from investigating. at the same time you can certainly make an argument, we don't know definitively what happened in the kennedy assassination and are there
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possibilities that castro was somehow involved? we don't know. but to use this as the meat of putting something together, it ain't there. >> thank you. please, your question. >> bruce guthrie. quickie point, we did lose another war, which was the invasion of russia after world war i. ignoring that, did the tapes talk at all about how much nixon brought gerald ford in on discussions of vietnam and how he felt about how things worked out once he left and ford, you know, presided over the demise of south vietnam? >> thank you. good. >> unfortunately, the taping system did not run for nixon's entire presidency. it ran until -- you saw at the very outset of the program, alexander butterfield revealing its existence. taping was turned off in july of '73. even before ford became vice
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president. as minority leader of the house of representatives though, he was called other for both republican events and bipartisan stro congressional leaders and they received a very basic briefing from time to time on vietnam. >> fortunately, not everything is dependent upon the tapes. and there's an awful lot of other material around. enormous amount. and as far as the way in which nixon dealt with ford, it was in a nice way but he did not bring him in to serious discussions about the war. as far as nixon was concerned, he was already out of office. for him the vietnam war ended more or less on january 23rd, 1973. he then left office in '74. the war went on until april 30, 1975. for richard nixon at that time, he was out of it. he was trying to recouperate at that point. gerald ford had the problem of
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being the president at the time that the war was finally lost. richard nixon lost that opportunity. >> you know, nixon once said -- one quick line. nixon one said about gerald ford, he played football too many times without his helmet. >> but you're onto something. >> he didn't think he was that smart of a guy. >> remember how he got to be vice president. that was agnew's resignation. there was a lot of talk, knowledgeable talk at the time, some of nixon's people will tell you it is the case, that ford -- he viewed ford as impeachment insurance. that they will never impeach me if gerald ford and the contempt that you are talking about is part of that. and, of course, it didn't work and not only that, i mean, i think where shelby was reading, this thing about the son of a
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bitb bitch, pardon the son of a bitch, is a courageous act, the pardon of richard nixon. because he knew he could lose the presidency if he did it, and it's amazing. >> i'm miss louisa hayward holden. i'm quinn hayward holen's mother and i want to thank you for your discussion tonight and what this does for me is it really brings the question of who can we trust to light, and here we are 40 days, 40 years later. and i was 16 when nixon got impeached. so i remember it. and i'm thinking to myself and i'm going to personalize this a little. my son is kidnapped from massachusetts to new york on june 6, 2003, and then internationally kidnapped to great britain and i'm here in washington because this has been a 12-year cover-up that i
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reached out to everybody in the press, cbs, nbc, "the washington post," and i'm wondering 40 years later from nixon's impeachment, are we better off and is the press asking the right questions and why is it that george w. bush and president obama who run the department of justice and have totally obstructed justice on the felonies i'm a witness to haven't been impeached or held accountable or had to report their misconduct -- >> i think your question has been posed. thank you very much. >> actually, hasn't that case -- your case been written about? it has, hasn't it? >> no, actually there's only been one article in the boston globe that misled a lot of people. >> but i thought it had. >> they didn't interview any of the witnesses. >> i want to make sure it was what i was thinking. >> i don't want us to get off track too far. she's raising a good question about the press and what did the press do back then, what is it
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doing now? >> right, exactly. >> that sort of thing. >> i think that's a very legitimate question. >> what can we learn from back then and are we better off or worse off? >> you're a big report er. i mean, you actually did pretty well 40 years ago. >> i think that there is a lot of great reporting going on in this country. i think let's look at what "the boston globe" did on pedophile priests and the secrecy of the vatican. the notion that there isn't great reporting -- look at today's "new york times," today's "washington post," today's "wall street journal." great reporting. on the web great independent reporting. what we lack are the strength of journalistic institutions that
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are respected by consensus for giving readers and viewers what good journalism is, which is the best obtainable version of the truth. and i think that the view of the press reflects the same cultural and ideological divisions in the country, but to me the really big difference between the time of watergate and now is people who are looking for information rather than looking for the best obtainable version of the truth. as happened eventually at the time of watergate. you can't quantify this but i think the huge numbers of people in this country are looking for reinforcement and ammunition for their own ideological beliefs, and political beliefs, right, left, center. but they're not looking for good reporting. they're not open to good reporting. so i like to turn this question
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around a bit. i think that we've got a cultural problem, not a repper toal problem. >> yes, please. >> i'm from santa barbara, california. the question i have is -- it's a similar question. today what you see is a lot of -- what a lot of journalists are calling a war on the press. you look at the guardian, president obama has prosecuted twice as many whistle-blowers as any president prior to him -- >> i'm going to ask you for a question, please. >> the question is the shock of watergate and all that spying given today's context of the nsa and the government having spied on everyone here in the room already, do you feel it's lost something given modern revelations and do you feel it watergate happened today it would have the same impact to the people?
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>> thank you very much. >> that's an interesting question in its own way. look, watergate and nixon stands for the beginning of the great cynicism of the american people about government. a great new mistrust, that government is corrupt. kennedy did not leave that feeling. one now can go back and track some of the kennedy's things but at the time he didn't give that, and eisenhower didn't leave that taint in the sense that nixon did. i think everything after watergate becomes a gate, becomes a problem. there's one way to look at the break-in is almost quaint when you're teaching it as cold war history, the third rate burglars and all this kind of stuff compared to look how widespread spying is, look at the obama administration spying on merkel and our allies but yet the nixon tapes show a person operating without character and immoral and ronald reagan and gerald
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ford certainly -- and barack obama, jimmy carter had a moral fiber to them. a morality of some kind in the end probably matters. you can't just be real politic in foreign affair, i don't care, bomb them, get rid of them, spy on anybody, break anything because presidents have to be accountable to the law, and nobody has yet found barack obama and the nsa doing anything wrong, snowden incident. it sort of is government as usual but he doesn't have his fingerprints on things the way nixon did. >> thank you, doug. thank you very much. final question. >> thank you. it's a good set up about good journalism. mr. bernstein, you and bob woodward did good shoe leather journalism. the deep throat, the person we now know, mark 23e89 felt, obviously an incredible source. can you enlighten us and tell us how incredibly helpful was he in
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expedited your reporting. >> mark felt with whom bob met maybe ten times, a dozen at the most during our watergate reporting, there's too much mythology. we're probably partly to blame for it about the role of deep throat. what the great thing that felt did was more than -- more often than not, he confirmed information that we had obtained elsewhere. if you read the book, you look at the movie "all the president's men" you see every night we're going out knocking on doors and people that work for richard nixon are saying there's a secret fund. it paid for this. it did terrible things. and then deep throat would confirm, yes, and maybe add a little more to it, but the great thing that he did was for us was gave us a sense that we were right. you know, we had what we called the two-source rule. it eventually came to be a three-source rule that we had
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these things nailed down. and, yes, deep throat was helpful in terms of context on a few occasions, but, no, this was really -- let's look also for a minute and give "the washington post," the institution of "the washington post," what it deserves here. forget about woodward and me for a minute. that here we had a publisher, katharine graham, and an editor, ben bradley, and this goes to some of the difference in the press today because i agree i don't think we have the leadership in the press about commitment to the best obtainable version of the truth on as many levels as we had then. but think about this. that when we discovered this secret fund as it were that was the beginning of the unraveling, a few days later a subpoena
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server came to "the washington post," called me up. i got a call from the guard at the desk saying there's a guy down here with a subpoena for me and woodward and our notes, and i said, well, don't let the guy up. and i called ben bradley, and ben said, don't let the guy up. let me do something. hold off a minute. and he called me back a few minutes and he said, okay, bernstein, you get the hell out of the building. that's the first thing. and i just called katharine graham, and she says those are her notes, they're not your notes, and if anybody is going to go to jail, it's going to be her. >> that's a fantastic story. fantastic g%klr1çrdfuju+y i think we are out of time now
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and i want to thank our three marvelous panelists and all of you for showing up. i wanted to make the following point. it kind of grows out of what doug had just said a moment ago. i learned in 1974 i believe that my phone was tapped by richard nixon. i knew that on two occasions my office of the state department, cbs had an office at the state department as did most of the reporters covering the department, that that office had twice been broken into. once i actually saw people running away because they had seen me approaching. four or five times our income tax was audited. not a penny found out of line but it was a terrible problem each time.
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there were a lot of things -- and, you know, i ended up on nixon's enemies list, and every time that one of these other issues came into play, my two daughters would ask me whether they could respect president nixon because he was president of the united states. i said something like, you don't have to respect nixon, but you ought to respect the office of the presidency of the united states because with all of the madness that he represented, there was still a system in play that could get him out of office, that could squeeze him out of office, that could lead to his voluntary resignation because his own people were saying to him, you don't have the votes. and at the end of the day you still live in an environment no matter how bad nixon was where the system itself could not be
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perverted even by a guy like richard nixon. so i take my had ot off to the for a couple of the things he did but not for too many things, and i don't want to go overboard on praising this man, but he was our president, and from that point of view, what the heck. thank you all so very much for coming. thanks very much. . [ applause ] tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern on american history tv, we'll hear about president warren harding's long term love affair detailed in letter recently released by the library of congress. the former president's grand nephew explains why his family insisted on keeping the letters sealed and how the family continues to deal with the fallout from the affair around its impact on warren harding's legacy.


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